Why the Robot Manual Matters

There’s a saying that the best design leaves holes, not so that the design isn’t complete, but to allow the design to grow and be applied to things you may not expect. In that respect, the Manual to our robot is one of the biggest “holes” in our design: it gives anyone enough information to truly understand the robot’s design and construction, enough even to fix it

In competitions and in real life, this matters. What good is a car that nobody can repair? What good is a computer that nobody can understand?

In our case, the Rutgers Regional was actually taking place while our seniors were on the traditional Senior Trip to Disney. Keeping a robot in one piece is hard enough no matter how well it’s constructed, let alone without some of our most experienced team members, including about half of our captains.

The manual solves this problem. Every nut, every bolt, every electrical board is accounted for in the robot manual, every issue, every decision. It’s almost literally the ink-and-paper manifestation of our Mechanical, Electrical, Programming, and Design subteams. We can survive without our seniors, because they left us prepared. We can survive without having everyone who worked on the robot there, because they left us prepared.

In theory, we can even survive if only the Website subteam went to the competition, because they left us prepared.

(Granted, probably not a safe idea to try out.)

I’m usually not one for trite phrases, but a robotics team must expect the unexpected in a competition. Nothing ever goes as planned, and that should always be okay.